Posted by Emmanuel Onwubiko | 1 October 2013 | 3,950 times
Should I say it was by happenstance or luck or a mixture of both fortune and happenstance that the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission invited me as a lead resource person from the civil society community to participate at the recently concluded South East Zonal Public Hearing on the ongoing preparation of the new national revenue formula by the commission which took place in Enugu, the South East regional political capital, between 26th/27th September, 2013 at Nike Lake Hotel in Abakpa Nike Enugu, Enugu State?
So I actively participated with excitement and patriotic fervour following the factual discovery that the South East zone in the scheme of national affairs especially in the system of sharing of the proverbial ‘national cake’ has always been schemed out. But my discovery at the event is to the effect that most of the scheming outs and marginalizations are self-inflicted because the political and economic elites including the civil society community leaders of South East origin don’t give a hoot about political scheming, especially negotiations that would ultimately benefit the larger class of the oppressed people of the South East region. In both the North West and North Central zonal public hearings by the same Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission there were significant high presence of quality leaders of the organized civil society community and the people of the zones who were mobilized and sensitized to attend and participate actively at such sessions. The same was not the case in Enugu whereby the northern-born Master of Ceremony practically went down on his knees to beg the few persons that turned up to come to the stage and give their presentation even in the local Igbo dialect but only very few persons presented papers and no one spoke in the local official language of the South East which is Igbo.
So as usual, the event was boycotted by the five South East governors, including the loud- mouthed Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, Mr. Peter Obi, who is frequently in Abuja attending one contrived national economic meeting or the other but this important one in his backyard that deliberated on what the South East will recommend as inputs into the forthcoming national revenue sharing formula to be drafted and presented to the President by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission headed by a South East-born Engineer Elias Mbam, Peter Obi and his co-travelers in the so-called South East Governors Forum absented themselves.
Even the host governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, was absent and only represented by his deputy Mr. Sunday Onyewuchi, who kept delegates from far and near waiting endlessly for hours for his arrival to declare the event open. On his near-imperial arrival he delivered few minutes speech substantially skewed to benefit only but the executive arm (political elites as against the masses) of the government at the state level and disappeared almost immediately, leaving the stage for low profile representatives of the entire South East states. Imo State that was on the first day represented by a non-ranking member of the Imo State House of Assembly while the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha (who recently spent a fortune sponsoring the telecasting of live programme of the banality called August meeting in September this year) was reportedly busy attending election campaign events of Dr. Chris Ngige of the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress for the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election billed for November 16.
Imo State Government was eventually represented on the second and final day of the event by the Imo State Head of Service and he delivered the Imo State position barely a day after a non-ranking member of the Imo State House of Assembly had appeared to claim that though she was sent by the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly but that the position she espoused was that of Imo State Government. This was in total breach of the constitutional principal of checks and balances that must be present in a civil democracy of the three tiers of government made up of the executive, legislature and the judiciary. Such a poor show from Imo State! Even when some writers approached the Imo State Head of Service for copies of the state’s position he declined, saying that he needed to do some typographical corrections. Wow!
Such is the way and manner that the political elites in the South East have manhandled and mistreated the masses so much so that there is total apathy even among the civil society community that at that event no significant civil society community of South East origin turned up except very few with patriotic fervour running in their veins. Political leaders or should I say rulers treat the people of South East with so much contempt and disdain and unfortunately the people have grown so lethargic and so politically inactive that national events of life threatening dimension like the one I mentioned above, the people usually fail to mobilize themselves in the qualitative and quantitative numbers to present the opinions of the people of the South East region since the Nigerian Constitution recognizes the People of Nigeria as the real owners of the Sovereignty of Nigeria. The ill fortune politically of the South East region is caused by us and not by northerners or westerners, from the Babatunde Fashola-led anti-Igbo government in Lagos State to Governor Kwankwaso of Kano State, who is doing so much to lift his people to their better selves while our own South East Governors are dissipating energy playing politics of self aggrandizement and selfish acquisition of wealth at the expense of the civil populace. Sad. The South East people must note that if they fail to do something pragmatic to change the status quo then we will for a long time remain as slaves to these selfish bunch of political fortune seekers and buccaneers.
Well, to avoid digression, let me say straight away that I went to a social joint somewhere within the vicinity of the National Museum and Monuments in central Enugu city with a friend and former colleague from The Guardian who now anchors the South East region for the nation’s flagship and what I observed throughout our stay at that immensely popular and much frequented social get-together venue whereby you could decipher a near-perfect mixture of the high, the low and the not so poor is that there is total absence of security consciousness among the owners and administrators of that national institution of significance that has now carved out a portion of the large expanse of landed assets and rented out to business persons that deal on soft; not so harsh and hot drinks and variety of suya and students from the diverse higher institutions including traders congregate on daily basis to unwind even as women of easy and not so easy virtues congregate to try their luck to secure willing clients for the night.
From the wide entrance that is permanently thrown open with no presence of any security personnel of any colour, patrons simply drives in and park wherever spaces are available and head straight to the open spots whereby they seat on plastic tables to unwind not minding the security implication of the ferocious and deadly intents of the Northern Nigerian based Boko Haram armed Islamic Insurgents who are unleashing terrifying terrorism of global proportion on the people including Igbos who are of South East origin.
Sadly, too, in all of the big hotels visited including the venue of the Revenue Mobilization zonal public hearing that I mentioned above (Nike Lake Resort), there is total neglect of security as different category of persons including foreigners made up mostly of Indians, Chinese Europeans, Americans and Arabs saunter in and out of the large expanse of landed assets and facilities even as patrons go about their daily business unaware that there is the possibility of infiltration (God forbid) of armed terrorists who are not too far off from the South East and who have made their intention known to wipe off all traces of Christians and non-extremist Muslims.
At the hugely popular Shoprite complex in the upscale side of Enugu City frequented by the novae riche (big and mighty) there is even worst case scenario as painted taxi/cabs and all manner of contraptions are parked at strategic points within the premises while people mill around in search of what to buy and for leisure unmindful of the evil potencies of these dare-devil Boko Haram insurgents who are now linked to the recent bloody bombing and suicide attacks of the Westgate Shopping Mall in the Kenya capital of Nairobi not up to a week ago in which nearly one hundred innocent lives were lost including a very globally respected poet from Ghana Professor Kofi Awoonor.
As I reminisce in Enugu this morning, 28th September, 2013, on the possibility of a Boko Haram attack (God forbid) and the population largely unaware and highly insensitive of the delicate and complex security challenges that some of us who live in Abuja face on daily basis from threats of attacks by Boko Haram Islamic fundamentalists, my mind raced straight to the Daily Sun story I read same morning about the narratives by Professor Wole Soyinka on how he narrowly escaped being a victim of that deadly and bloody gruesome Nairobi attacks by the Al-Shabbab Ismamic Terrorists who invaded the neighbouring Kenya from the lawless Somalia to unleash these blood cuddling/bloody and primitive attacks against innocent citizens.
Professor Soyinka said he was only absent from the Kenya event because of other equally tight schedule outside of Africa and that if he had attended he would have certainly been with the late Professor Awoonor to gulp some few bottles together within the Westgate mall since they were soul mates and colleagues. These same routines were exactly what I did with that my professional colleague I talked about in Enugu.
As I sat at the National Museum ground in Enugu sipping a green bottle I was very conscious of my immediate environment and had to evacuate myself from a particular spot when I noticed an unattended leather bag and called on the hostess who immediately dismissed my fears ignorantly and said the person who owns the bag will surely come and pick it up. On hearing this, I rushed through my bottle and left with a speed of lightening alongside my friend because as the wise saying goes ‘experience is the wisest counselor.’
My question now is to the good people of South East region and at the same time I am appealing to them to wake up from the security lethargy even if they are comfortable with the political marginalization of the South East zone in the national scheme of things, but they should not neglect the issues of security of their lives and property because TERRORISM IS BORDERLESS as the Kenyans recently learnt and the Ugandans similarly learnt few years back from the same Somalia- based Islamic Terrorists group.
If Kenya had learnt from the bad experiences of their neighbor Uganda and brace up to the challenge confronting them from their near-neighbor- Somalia who knows, may be the bloody Westgate attack won’t have happened. Just may be!
South East people please wake up and take your destiny in your hands and secure your land and your lives because the political elites don’t live with you in the South East but their children live abroad in the safety of Europe and America even as their businesses set up mostly with stolen public fund are all based in Abuja or Lagos whereby security measures are already at the highest level of alert courtesy of the Nigerian Army but in Enugu whereby there is the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army I did not notice any security measures covertly or overtly to prevent any BOKO HARAM ATTACK IN THE SOUTH REGION OR IS THIS ANOTHER DESIGN TO WIPE OFF THECIVILIAN POPULATION OF THE SOUTH EAST?
Why is the Chief of Army Staff (incidentally who hails from the South East for the first time in 40 years) not concerned about the security of the people of the South East because right throughout Imo, Abia and Enugu and parts of Ebonyi that I covered these few days I did not notice any security measure on ground to counter any such terrorism plots and/or attacks against the people of the South East region which in any event I do not pray and wish for? What has happened to the community and village based associations and why are they not pressurizing the local councils and their state governments to put measures proactively in place and noticeably that will sufficiently enlighten and compel the entire civil populace to take up issues of security of lives and properties of themselves with seriousness the same way that they are serious with their individual business ventures whereby they have achieved fame and fortune? Why are the churches busy with collection of tithes and doing little to enlighten the people to be security conscious? Why are business owners not investing in security of their assets and their customers?
If the South East people are relying on the rhetoric and empty threats of retaliation against Boko Haram if they attack the South East as issued by different amorphous and non-existent structures such as MASSOB and other self seeking groups then they are in for a huge surprise because these people who issue these statements don't have the intention of the good people of the South East region because they are ensconced in their beautiful mansions in Abuja whereby they hibernate within political structures in their respective states of the South East and jet back to Abuja almost with the same lightening speed that they breeze in intermittently to host choreographed and media covered gatherings with rented crowd of hungry villagers. The South East people must sit up now before it is late. Let us make hay while the SUN STILL SHINES.
•RIGHTSVIEW appears twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
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